Baku, November 22, AZERTAC
Swiss-based Diva International magazine has published an article headlined “Elite Groups in Azerbaijan’s Higher Education” by Vice-rector of Azerbaijan State University of Economics for International Affairs and Programs Shahin Bayramov.
UNEC Vice- rector’s article is dedicated to the analysis of the SABAH Project which is an integral part of the reforms implemented in Azerbaijan Higher Education system. Bayramov mainly explains so called SABAH project in the context of Azerbaijan State University of Economics. The author discusses SABAH groups’ positive influence on different aspects of higher education within the selected higher education institution. He is applying the Matthew Effect to support his arguments.
He highlights significant benefits obtained from the project by a fully economics and business profiled university UNEC which hosts one thirds of SABAH students within the first two years.
Toughing on the governance of elite groups the author says SABAH is centrally administered by the Ministry and this unique model offers direct academic, technical and financial support to host universities. First of all, this project diminished a bureaucracy in terms of academic governance and curricula development, traditionally existing in all public HEIs. The Ministry provides full package of expertise to day-to-day operations administration of SABAH groups at UNEC. In addition, universities get additional funding for all SABAH related expenses.
Bringing to attention SABAH students’ number at UNEC, the author says: “The first two years showed extremely high competition in admission to SABAH groups at UNEC. As a result, more than one hundred students, previously enrolled at other universities, became UNEC students. SABAH is becoming an efficient tool to attract talented and promising students, nationwide, from fifty-three HEIs (both public and private). SABAH became a “national brand” of Azerbaijani higher education, and all high school students desire to achieve the status of SABAH student, which they keep forever, similar to Fulbrighter in the US. I believe that getting more bright students functions as one of the mechanisms of the “virtuous circle” based on SABAH groups at UNEC. In that sense, SABAH increases excess demand and opportunity for selectivity and therefore for future student quality.”
The author points out in the article SABAH groups at UNEC have a completely different education program and curricula specially designed by benefiting from the best practice of globally recognized HEIs like Harvard, Oxford, LSE, and UPenn. Almost all classes are taught in English. The faculty and administrative staff is centrally selected by the Ministry. The faculty is comprised of experienced professors and mainly western-educated (US, UK, Canada, etc.) young faculty from UNEC and other institutions. Plus, some economics and business-profiled practitioners from the industry (private sector, government, and diplomatic missions) have been involved in the teaching process. It is not easy to become an instructor in UNEC due to high academic and professional requirements based on nature and mission of SABAH project. Lecturing at SABAH classes is considered a proof of teaching excellence and an indicator of high prestige in academic community. However, UNEC prefers to attract visiting professors from leading foreign universities who bring their own ideas and perspectives. More than ten visiting professors have taught in SABAH classes during first two years. UNEC has managed to organize several lectures delivered by those visiting professors for non-SABAH students during their stay.
Bayramov emphasizes that here is a high level of interest from the industry into the SABAH groups at UNEC. He says two commercial banks, one insurance company and the State Committee on Securities have already helped establish special laboratories in UNEC where SABAH students are involved in practical trainings. Professionals from those companies try to identify promising employees by delivering regular seminars in those laboratories. The author substantiates contributions made by SABAH as business collaboration which increases UNEC’s revenues, creates new internship opportunities for students, and helps to improve academic curricula.
As a result, the scholar comes to conclusion SABAH Project has a significant role in enhancing UNEC’s national and regional prestige, improvement its position in “Webometrics” rating of the world universities and as a whole in improving the quality of education at the university.